Seminole, Southern, Soul and Cracker cooking have many similarities in that they all used what was available or they could find in the woods. As many Southerners moved further south to Florida during the 1870s, they brought their traditions and foods with them.
A New Year’s meal of black-eyed peas, collards, cornbread and pork/ham is steeped in the tradition of bringing good luck and wealth for the coming year. The peas symbolize coins or wealth; greens resemble folding money; cornbread is the color of gold and pork is a sign of prosperity in some cultures because pigs root forward.
It has also been said that when Union General Sherman raided Confederate food supplies, he left the black-eyed peas and salted pork, thinking they were animal foods. The Confederates saw this as good fortune since they still had those foods to eat.
Hopping John is a traditional New Year’s Day dish throughout the South. This recipe comes from Florida Back Roads Travel.
1 lb. fried field peas (black-eyed)
1/2 lb. cured pork or bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup uncooked rice
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1 Tbs. bacon fat or butter
Soak peas in enough water to cover overnight.
Rinse well in morning, drain, and place in a pot with water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, add seasoning meat, pepper sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cook onions in bacon fat until soft and then add to peas. Cook over low heat for about 30 to 45 minutes. Check water level and add rice, so that there is at least 2 cups of liquid for one cup of rice.
Reduce heat, cover pot until water is absorbed and rice is tender (about 20 minutes). Good Luck!